Global Investors Summit: Crucial step in UP's desire to be economic powerhouse

UP has made it clear that it means business and is welcoming of business

24-A-drone-show Bright future: A drone show at the Global Investors Summit in Lucknow | Pawan Kumar

The year was 2013.

The Sugar Technologists’ Association of India had organised a three-day international conference at Indira Gandhi Pratishthan in Lucknow. Some 120 exhibitors and 1,400 delegates from around the world attended.

Anil Shukla, the then secretary general of the body, received a call around midnight saying that the chief minister, who was to inaugurate the meet, would not be able to make it. Shukla still remembers the embarrassment and panic that ensued. The morning after, the government sent in a replacement―the minister who held the portfolio for home guards. He delivered a generic welcome and best-of-luck speech. “What kind of impression would that have created?” Shukla still wonders.

This is 2023.

Shukla now runs a startup called Officers’ Cricket Academy in Windsor, Canada. He had heard a list of positives about the state over the past few years. So when the state’s Global Investors Summit (GIS) was announced, he did not wait for a government invitation but registered on his own to attend.

Much has changed in the Lucknow he visited this February, after a three-year gap. “There is a sense of security among women. Police personnel are cordial. Ministers and bureaucrats are enablers―easy to approach and speak to,” Shukla said.

26-Prime-Minister-Narendra-Modi-with-Chief-Minister-Yogi-Adityanath Double engine: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at the inauguration of Global Investors Summit | Pawan Kumar

To bring over ten country partners, more than 1,000 foreign delegates from 40 countries, four ministers from partner countries, 17 Union ministers, five ambassadors/high commissioners and some 25,000 delegates to showcase the changed state that Uttar Pradesh is has been the biggest achievement of the three-day GIS. At the event inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 10, the power of the double engine was on full display. Among the galaxy of Union ministers who trooped in, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav said that Uttar Pradesh had to be a model for the world; Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri labelled the state’s cities as the transformers of the economy; Sports Minister Anurag Thakur complimented the state on building a strong foundation for bringing more medals to the country.

Prasun Mishra, an impact investor, who is the founding chair of the World Investors and Entrepreneurs Society (WISE), a Silicon Valley-based investment collective with a global footprint, sums up his experience at the summit thus: “I will be back”. For Mishra, there were cherries―the five-star tent city created to house delegates; the superior service; the variety of cultural programmes and the drone shows highlighting the power of the Modi-Yogi Adityanath duo.

But the substance, for the investor in him, lays in the summit’s ‘very informative nature’. “I enjoyed the opening ceremony, where the PM outlined his vision for India with UP as its growth engine and the work that the CM has done to groom the state as one of India’s leading investment destinations,” he said. “It was a great learning experience to hear from leading industrialists regarding their investment plans and experiences. The sessions on pharmaceuticals and MSMEs; and on Indian startups that became unicorns were excellent.”

While an investor summit, however spectacular, is no guarantee of actual investment or of job creation, by being at it persistently―investor summits, ground breaking ceremonies, international and national road shows, district level investment meets―Uttar Pradesh has made it abundantly clear that it means business and is welcoming of business.

Sachin Agarwal, chairman and managing director of the Lucknow-based high-end engineering components manufacturer PTC Industries, said that whenever he travelled within the country, the location of his business would draw disbelief. Access to capital was difficult, for instance, as was listing on the stock market. Uttar Pradesh was placed in the club of India’s worst states―the BIMARUs: the sick.

“The first thing to be tackled was this problem of perception,” said Agarwal. “There are many who have questioned the money spent on the summit. But it is this show that has sent out the message that here is a state receptive to industries. That it is open to reaching out and listening. The initial hitch of doing business in UP is no longer there. The intent, the interest and the manpower is all here.”


The summit was the culmination of intense preparation. More than 25 sectoral policies―formulated by the Yogi Adityanath government in its first term―were re-cast and 16 international roadshows conducted. There was a lot of naysaying, but they fell by the wayside at the summit. Singapore, for instance, in addition to the industry memoranda of understanding, signed an agreement to implement a pilot project on the efficacy of smart water technologies for enhancing the state’s sustainability. A joint partnership committee will monitor the project. Alessandro Liberatori, the Italian embassy's trade commissioner, likened the pace of progress between the two countries to that of the speed of bullet trains, and he identified smart cities, mobility, smart grids for electricity distribution and storage, gas transportation and natural gas as new areas of cooperation.

The triumph of perception that Agarwal refers to is established. Right after the GIS, Agarwal made his way to the Aero India Show in Bengaluru. Among those he met there was a former US ambassador to the country, who said, “I love Lucknow.”

“The scale of the organisation was unbelievable. Almost all my friends from the industry, in whichever part of the country they were, received invites,” said Agarwal.

The summit was remarkable for the variety of investors it drew. Take sports, for instance. Rugby India inked an MoU to take the sport to selected regions. MotoGP Bharat committed to organising the world championship in Lucknow, with a proposed investment of 1473 crore that will generate jobs for 500 people.

Yannick Colaco, co-founder of FanCode, a live streaming platform for sports and sports fans, said, “The steps taken by the UP government to promote sports are highly commendable. We are honoured to sign an MoU to facilitate grassroots sports development and leverage technology to develop sports and a sporting culture, especially for underserved sports.”

The state has followed up on the GIS success by steps such as announcing an early appointment of Udyami Mitras (friends of entrepreneurs) to get the investment intents on the ground; the forming of Investment Implementation Units in all departments; and the setting up of dedicated call centres for foreign investors.

Gaurav Prakash, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (CIMSME) said that the sheer scale of MOUs signed was ‘inspirational’ and ‘motivating’. “From a state of unlimited problems, we have transformed into a state of unlimited possibilities. But the key is that no time must be wasted. The translation of intent into investment and employment must take place at the earliest,” he said.

For all the laurels that Uttar Pradesh has picked up for the GIS, there remain many challenges. Manufacturing, for instance, is not the state’s strength, neither are exports. And policies need to be more granular in terms of identifying what specific gaps they address, not only within the country but outside it as well. Its manpower needs to have the requisite skills to get to the top of the job ladder.

Good business at the end of the day is all about having goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART). The GIS has been that crucial step in proving that Uttar Pradesh is, indeed, smart. And that it can and will punch above its weight.